Return to Articles


February, 2009

We know Kaz Oshiro for his trompe l'oeil photo realist paintings that delighted us because of the artist's illustration techniques and sense of humor. In this show, he moves that photo realist aesthetic into three dimensions--literally. He constructs sculptures that perfectly ape in 3-D his photo realistic paintings to both push and spoof the very idea of photorealism. An absolutely believable sculpture that so effectively pretends to be a realistic painting that it shocks us when we realize that it is not "brushed on" turns the whole genre on its ear. With a good deal of humor and a ton of skill these sculptures of paintings make us ask what it is about the ability to capture truth that has fascinated art viewers since the Renaissance.

Kaz Oshiro, "Untitled Corner Piece (Turquoise),"
2008, acrylic on canvas, 30 3/8 x 32 1/8 x 9 1/4"
(left) and 30 3/8 x 62 x 9 1/4" (right).
These are fun enough, but the real treat and surprise comes from Oshiro's brave and remarkably effective turnabout into very fine abstract paintings that are nearly monochromatic surfaces modulated with the subtlest of striations. This is the artist's way of telling/showing us that good painting is good painting not by virtue of content; these works invoke the clarity and "luster" of surface finish work we associate with L.A. in the 1970s (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).

Lecia Dole-Recio, Untitled 2007, gouache, colored
pencil, graphite, paper, glue and tape, 21 x 18 1/4".
Lecia Dole-Recio’s elegant abstractions have been celebrated in contemporary art discourse for good reason, and her new work does not disappoint. Continuing to mine her mixture of calm discovery and subtle chaos, the main gallery features collages and paintings, including one stunning work layered with pink diagonals that seem, almost, to vibrate, but are too painterly--in the best possible sense--to evoke a sensibility with such technological resonance. The second room, around the corner and well worth the short walk, is quieter, with works in deep blues and crisp whites. But it is here that the artist’s intelligent use of erasure becomes most poignant, with layers pushing and pulling the viewing experience in a manner akin to observing the mind engaged in meditation (Richard Telles Fine Art, West Hollywood).

The three artists included in an elegant exhibition play with the deconstruction and regeneration of form and image through color and pattern. Standout works include Eric Zammitt’s floating Plexiglas extravaganzas, made with a process so intricate that it verges on obsession. Zammitt laminates colorful strips of plex before rearranging, sanding, and polishing them into surprisingly optical works. Omar Chacon’s paintings are made with a curious process of removing and replacing pieces of dried paint from one area of the canvas to another to make tactile wall-works. Ilyung Cho projects footage from a performance onto sugar, creating a moving abstraction that resembles the moon in the night sky more so than a mouth sucking candy (the origin of the image), making for a strange, if not particularly conclusive, associative game (Sabina Lee Gallery, Chinatown).

Omar Chacon, "Made in Colombia 4,"
2007, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 42".

Joel Shapiro, "Twenty Six," 2008,
wood and casein, 67 3/4 x 60 x 54".
If you take David Smith's super slick cubi sculptures and give them some spunk and naughty life, you have what we come to expect from New York veteran Joel Shapiro. Here he shows large scale and small scale geometric sculptures where the rectangle, square and plane are amassed cleverly to seem to make those static geometries "bend," "stretch," "collapse" and in a word respond dynamically to gravity in ways abstract geometry simply cannot. Of course Shapiro's component parts never leave the right angle demands of basic geometric 3-D shapes, but the nuanced way that Shapiro balances a corner on an adjacent edge,  teeters a plane in relation to wall or floor, really does make these stark simple shapes appear to be filled with life force. The floor-bound “Twenty Six” is a rich jumble of light and dark that manages to be both busy and classical in one sweep. Another large untitled work in lush blondish wood plants itself into the gallery floor and then extends its parts with such a lyrical balance that you would swear it is a fast wood sketch of a dancer finding her center and then bending out from it (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

Walk into the main gallery and you are magically transported below the surface into the first West coast showing of this vividly colored, beautifully handcrafted world of the barrier reef. The Wertheim twins, Margaret and Christine, founders of the Institute For Figuring, grounded in science and an understanding of the mathematics of hyperbolic space, directed a legion of cooperative crochet artists to master the crafting of this extraordinary installation. Its dark counterpoint, the “Toxic Reef,” woven from plastic debris, sensitizes viewers to the fragile beauty of threatened marine life. Concurrently, Harriet Zeitlin exhibits her command of diverse skills including printmaking, quilting and sculpture. Most expressive of Zeitlin’s power to make the most of diverse patterns, forms and colors while acknowledging her respect for native arts and feminist ideals, are her dramatic sail-like works and an applauding audience of painted latex gloves (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Institute for Figuring and companions, "Hyperbolic
Crochet Coral Reef" (detail), 2008, mixed media.

Lisa Adams, "The Future of Paradise Past," 2008, oil on panel, 32 x 72".

November 4, 2008” is a celestial canvas with the number “86” rendered in throbbing red paint. The title of the opening work of Lisa Adams’ current show, titled “The Future of Paradise Past,” refers to Election Day, the number a request that the outgoing President close the door on the way out and—please!--not return. Profiles of birds and intricately laced floral arrangements are caught on either end of vines tangled in harmonious rapture. Nature is not destroying itself in Adams’ work; rather it is rebuilding itself, reclaiming its place in a world where it once belonged. Nothing captures the artist’s dichotomy as fully as a work that uses graffiti, “We Destroyed the Things we Loved.” A crystal blue glacier appears fractured and drifts aimlessly in the water beneath a canopy of vines similar to those frequently seen on the overpasses of freeways.  “Aledbo” appears in heavy-handed graffiti covering nearly the entire à la prima oil rendering. The “albedo” of an object is the extent to which it diffusely reflects light from the sun, and is the light that is being reflected from polar ice caps. By tagging her own canvas, Adams incorporates herself and her work into the fabric of Los Angeles, a city built upon a city, hidden behind graffiti and where against all odds vines continue to grow beneath the freeway (Lawrence Asher Gallery, West Hollywood).

Peter Krausz, "(No) Man's Land No. 4,"
2008, secco on panel, 30 x 22".

We are familiar with Renaissance fresco technique; Peter Krausz uses the far rarer, equally historical "secco" or dry technique in which he paints on surfaces prepared from parched marble powder and acrylic gels with pulverized pigments mixed in egg medium. The result is something less slick, more sonorous than oil, more luminous than fresco, but with all of fresco's depth. The subject of these 15 paintings is image after image (and you do not tire of it) of people-less rolling hills and foliage experienced by viewers from a distance and slightly above. Because of the dry technique and the egg base for pigments, colors seem locked in the surface rather than floating on it. The landscapes are bathed in this almost honeyed, matte light achieved via layer upon layer of delicate color. Though the scenes look inviting, even bucolic, the title of the show is rather bleak--”(No) Man’s Land.” This relates directly to the artist's interest in capturing not just open open natural space, but the related idea of borders, even barriers that separate geography and people. If you look closely enough to get beyond the seduction of the ambling hills, you do begin to notice that at each open field your eye is stopped by some natural barrier---a swath of green trees--or some compositional trope that invokes Krausz' apparent fascination with the concept of division. This is not one's imagination; the subject matter is biographical in that this artist crossed the border under peril with his family, escaping Soviet-ruled Romania in 1969. The way he is able to combine invitation and resistance subtly, indirectly echoes this life experience (Forum Gallery, West Hollywood).

A realist painting of a storm brewing over a broad landscape that looks “old school” until you get close and see the lush velvety surface. A kimono painted with everything from the Hulk to Golgotha to U.S. Army camouflage hanging next to a multi-tiered ceramic wedding cake composed of casts of Japanese good-luck cats and other pop culture icons. A dollhouse in which a tiny television broadcasts images of a young woman performing a haunting violin solo. A two-screen video diptych portraying three California couples who punctuate quotidian situations with amorous embraces. Anonymous arms reach into the scenes to adjust the pairs’ positions and make them more film-worthy. These remarkably diverse artworks by, respectively, Samantha Fields, Keiko Fukazawa, Nancy Buchanan and Carolyn Peter, and Eileen Cowin are four among over sixty pieces in “At the Brewery Project, 1993-2007: The Finale.” The exhibition celebrates the remarkable accomplishments of Brewery Project founder John O’Brien. Its diversity, inclusivity, and remarkably high level of quality attest to his success in organizing a truly alternative art venue, one that reached around the planet to build community and foster communication through the transformative power of the visual arts (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).

Samantha Fields, painting from "At the
Brewery Project, 1993-2007: The Finale".

Sigmar Polke, "Daphne," 2004, book.

Visitors to the Westside campus of MOCA will be treated to an exceptional exhibition of artist’s books, those wonderful handmade iterations of an ancient form. Alternately sly, formal, innovative, evocative, or just plain funny, the over 130 works that comprise To Illustrate and Multiply: An Open Book run the gamut of possibilities in terms of approach and pedigree. The large gallery is filled to bursting with vitrines and wallworks representing more than 100 artists, with an interactive reading center in the middle--which provides a place to pick up and hold some of the books, as well as an unfortunate reminder that the others are locked in glass.

Perusing the cases, one encounters fantastic works from recent decades by John Cage, Ed Ruscha, Lawrence Weiner, Keith Haring, and so many others, alongside newer works by contemporary artists such as Brendan Lott and Euan MacDonald. The variety of media and approaches provides a burst of energy while each one offers a unique sensibility or style. Eschewing spectacle, this quiet exhibition is deceptively seductive; be sure to put plenty of coins in the meter as you may find yourself spending far more time than you imagined here (MOCA at the Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood).

William Tunberg's stunning marquetry wall pieces are both elegant and intricate. Dazzling color, texture, and abstract shapes are the hallmark of this original and finely crafted work, which conveys an Asian sensibility. Tunberg employs a computer to generate the images, which he then alters to emphasize stark geometric shapes and complex designs. Tunberg's work is complemented by the large-scale, whimsical ceramics vases, architectural boxes, and teapots of Anna Silver. Oversized, replete with loose calligraphic marks and bright colors that show the hand of the artist, these seem like teapots from Wonderland used by Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (American Jewish University, West Los Angeles).

William Tunberg, from "Marquetery," wood.

Asad Faulwell paints decorative, floral arabesques reminiscent of Islamic textiles, manuscripts and ceramics, which serve as the armature for cut-out black and white press photos of key figures within the turbulent social and political history of the Middle East. In addition to such public figures as Sadat (Egypt), King Abduall (Jordan), Faulwell creates homages to three less public women bombers who fought in the Battle of Algiers. The brightly colored surface designs are seductive and sensuous, creating a tension between the insistence of the political figures and historical events. The results are both pleasing and provocative (Link Contemporary Art, Claremont).

Asad Faulwell, "Majahidat," 2008, mixed media, 36 x 48".

Expedition artist Danielle Eubank’s show “Oil on Water” is a meditation of her voyage on an 8th Century AD Phoenician vessel called the Borobudur, a ship that traveled for 10 months and 10,000 miles. The show features work from her travels to Indonesia, the Mediterranean, the North American West Coast and Africa.  Eubank returned to the States with scrolls of oil on linen that delicately capture the natural, fleeting and unpredictable undulation of bodies of water around the world. The works are named after each location Eubank visited, and when viewed in the gallery one associates particular colors to distinct geography. “Jakarta Marina VI” captures a rich, sundrenched marina whose colors extends beyond the frame of the linen and pour onto the sides of the frame, mimicking one’s peripheral vision when viewing a large expanse. “Bristol Waters III” appears as a dichotomy in a gallery full of lush color as Eubank captures the dreary British climate. She follows in the footsteps of the central Impressionist tenet: to paint is to capture color and light (Found Gallery, Silver Lake).

Danielle Eubank, painting from "Oil on Water."

Loren Sandvik, sculpture.

The sculptures that dot the floor and fill the walls of Loren Sandvik’s current exhibition could be the residue of an asteroid landing, an interior design debacle, or a broken heart. It is this eclectic combination of associations that lends Sandvik’s works a sense of poetry, while their beautifully seamless construction adds a certain gravitas. In the window of the gallery, a steel and blue glass structure comes closest among the many sculptures to identification with a specific item; but the tear-shaped structure is too pretty to be wholly sad, and too comically oversized to be take itself seriously. Throughout this exhibition there remains a fluid but tenuous relationship between idea and structure, emotion and construction--a little like navigating life, love, and the cosmos (Acuna-Hansen Gallery, Chinatown).

Kirsten Stoltmann’s large-scale collages and sculptures are not to be missed for their sheer visual power. The ideas at work behind the scenes--and readily available in text on most collages--are more questionable; neurosis, sexuality, and misguided meditation figure prominently in the collages and, though less directly, in the slick, beautiful surfaces of her abstract and minimal sculptures. Phrases such as, "Enough is Enough" and "I have to make this work if it kills me" pepper the works with a self-conscious attraction to artistic angst that, while seemingly outdated, it feels almost revelatory in the context of these works (Cottage Home, Chinatown).

Kirsten Stoltmann, "Enough is Enough," 2008, mixed media collage.

Amy Bennett, "Trespassers," 2008, oil on panel, 18 x 18".

Upon entering the gallery, Amy Bennett’s intimate paintings seem to occupy a space between old glossy photographs and holiday brochure illustrations from a bygone era. Dusty rose cabins nestle between stands of pines and the placid waters of a reflective lake, while turquoise-suited bathers frolic at the shore. But like a Hollywood movie with an establishing shot of an idealized setting, a disquiet bubbles beneath the surface. Are the campers airing out a rain-soaked tent, or signaling for help? Are the vacationers playfully tossing a comrade in the water or retrieving a drowning victim? Like Alfred Hitchcock’s use of miniature sets for establishing shots, Bennett ably crafts these cinematic tensions into paintings that teeter between the ideal and a sense of unease (Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Monolithic sculptures modeled after cacti of the natural world invade L.A. in a new series of “Architectural Cactus” sculptures, “Garden of Evidence: Cactus Grove.” Land, body, performance, and video artist Dennis Oppenheim manufactures galvanized steel bases to support water jet cut aluminum frames, structural acrylic, translucent fiberglass, sidewalk grating, galvanized steel, and perforated metal. Oppenheim manufactures 8-10 foot cacti from materials commonly found in a scrap metal yard. His sleek handling and precision modeling render junk into symmetrical freestanding objects that appear light and balanced in the gallery space. The large scale of the cactus sculptures lends them a surreal presence. The use of metal grating reveals the interior of the sculptures, allowing the viewer to examine their inner workings as well as admire the outrageous Pop-inspired colors on the outside. It all works together so seamlessly that Oppenheim’s man-made cactus feels more natural than its desert counterpart (Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills).

Dennis Oppenheim, "Alternative Landscape
Components," 2006, visualization prior to fabrication.

Certain kinds of art remain compelling, if no longer groundbreaking. Sculpture that takes form and color as its primary subject would seem to be one of these, but Andrew Gavenda’s new work paves new ground. Gavinda’s idiosyncratic forms and surprising but intriguing color choices are anything but familiar. A black, green, and purple hinge-like shape protrudes from the wall near the ceiling; a red zig-zag pattern covers a large wooden triangle that comes close to resembling bleachers or a gate--but does not, in the end, mimic either. Like a lot of sculpture these days, the works are made with materials not initially intended for art--foam, latex, enamel, epoxy resin. The works’ charm lies in a playful resistance to being situated, either in time or by association (Texan Equities, Northeast Los Angeles).

Andrew Gavenda, "Houser," 2006, pine, museum
board and acrylic, 27 1/2 x 7 1/4 x 34 1/2".

Space, that nothing which is present everywhere, is the animating force in “Roberta Eisenberg: A Life’s Work”, a posthumous retrospective. This well organized exhibition showcases an artist who had a powerful command of the void. She treated the expansive swaths of vacancy in her large paintings and drawings as dynamic sites of mood and theatre. Her brushwork could crash in those nebulous painted grounds until they formed wide rivers of turbulent water.

Roberta Eisenberg, "Bardo," oil on canvas, 96 x 48".
Likewise she could flatten darkness out like a hard fragment cut from dull, veined stone only to unexpectedly dissolve organic forms in it like hot, melting rocks. As strong as her large paintings on canvas are, however, the surprise and delight of this exhibition is the assembly of her mixed media paintings on paper. These 1989 works are remarkable not only for the ongoing freshness of their imagery but the way they capture the sheer liveliness of the artist’s hand and mind (Cal Poly Pomona, W. Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery).

Desiree Engle, "Artichoke," 2008, raku (ceramic), 9 x 9 x 9".

In this retrospective Desiree Engle’s early cast and torn paper works feel dated, but her chunky ceramic vessels are wonderfully earthy and reminiscent of Beatrice Wood’s most provocative pieces of lusterware. The thick glazes Engle’s uses on the hand shaped, rudimentary forms in this show cling to their surfaces like rich, clotted smears of calcifying minerals. It is in these works we most clearly see her love of surface, the cast off and raw nature. Less engaging are the swirling calligraphic lines of annealed glass she mounts on pieces of industrial machinery with a clunky Simon Rodia inspired enthusiasm for the turning the abject into art (57 Underground, Pomona).

“Invasion” is a loaded word. Seen in light of the paintings of Anthony Gordon and David Michael Lee, “Invasion” takes on multiple meanings in the individual work and in the dialogue between them. Gordon’s paintings are offensive, darker, vocal, and tense; while Lee’s are defensive, colorfully playful, yet serious. Both use a mixture of collage, painting, symbolism, and a vivid imagination. Gordon folds together cultures in heavy layers piled upon each other, while he draws, paints, and develops provocative content. With largely 1950s and ‘60s era images, he contrasts personal experiences with the ubiquitous presence of talismans as protection and fear when they are lost. Then there are his archaic pigeons that carry messages to the unknown. They affect the viewer to experience the surreal and unsettling. Lee creates landscapes, as if seen from an airplane and then further still from a satellite. The earth spins as Lee places animals, patterns, launching pads, and symbols from multiple eras on the surface, implicitly that of the Earth. His colorful Pop-style execution combines historical, geographical, and celestial possibilities. Hung in novel groupings of two paintings, sometimes Gordon’s is on top, and sometimes Lee’s is on top. Seen together in this manner, they ignite a highly charged energy that exceeds that of each regarded individually (At Space Gallery, Orange County).

(top) Anthony Gordon, "Pumbing: A Reworking
of the Classic Circus Sideshow Act. . ."
2008, mixed media, 24 x 24".
(bottom) David Michael Lee, "Explosive Lamb,"
2008, acrylic, fabric, paper and embellishment
over panel, 24 x 24".

Kate Savage, "Liar and Bee," 2006,
acrylic on birch panel, 12 x 12".

Channeling the surreal energy of Magritte and de Chirico, the paintings and drawings in the group show “Secret Narratives” offer dreamscape images peopled by deadpan dolls riding ostriches and buck-naked ladies on zebras. The work on the walls by Kate Savage and Elise Roedenbeck complement each other, not just in the way they capture a fragment of a childhood perception that clings to the adult mind, but also with the wordplay in the titles. “You Walrus Hurt The One You Love” depicts a doll being dragged along by the tooth of a nonchalant walrus. “A Modest Lesson” shows an inked crocodile allowing a single arm to hang out of its mouthful of clenched teeth. The woven installation loomed by a group of six artists displayed in the center of the room makes reference to less child-like narratives. “Cone of Power” extends up and through the ceiling of the gallery some thirty feet above (Phyllis Stein Art, Downtown).